We return to the topic of Langrock, the lengendary Princeton clothier, with these two ads from the 1970s aimed at the campus community. Together they illustrate how the shop viewed itself following the fall in popularity of the Ivy League Look.
In the top ad, Langrock touts itself as a noble knight defending the Ivy look. The copy reads:
As the only true purveyor of the Ivy look in men’s clothing in America today…
The Ivy look means natural shoulders. It means three button style. It means unobtrusive lapels. It means distinguished traditional tailoring. It means comfort as well as fit. It means fine fabrics, superbly tailored.
But if Langrock characterized itself as a knight in natural-shouldered armor, how did it view the enemy? Essentially like a pimp:
This rhetorical device has hardly changed, as Ivy Style readers with “reactionary” or “curmudgeon” in their usernames view well fitting shirts — even for those slight of frame — as “gigolo” cut.
Speaking of reactionary, in our next post Chris Sharp offers a biography of Langrock owner Alan Frank, who refused any concession to changing times and eventually found himself out of business. — CC
This is fascinating, but also explains why Langrock went out of business! The second advertisement especially has a very fussy, out-of-touch tone to it, like having your grandmother criticize your clothes. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to flatter the reader by complimenting his “classic style” (projecting the desired result) rather than calling him into the principal’s office for breaking the dress code?
By the time of the second ad they were clearly embittered.
How could Langrock possibly claim that they were “the only purveyor of the Ivy look in men’s clothing in America” in the 1970s?
Perhaps because Brooks and Press had let two-buttons darteds creep into their inventory?
The overstatement is also indicative of bitterness.
Looking forward to Chris’ bio.
Can anyone really argue against two-button jackets after taking a look at the Andover Shop’s offerings? They are perfection itself.
That second ad is from 1974. It also reflects their sense of humor. I need to hunt it up but I saw an ad that was much older were their nemesis was some sort of sartorial Bolsheviks. In some ways it was a long battle that even predates the counter culture.
Ad I am thinking of is from 1949.
“Bitterness”? Hmmm. Speaking of overstatement.
I think they’re having great fun–at the expense of 70s weirdness.
The first ad is brilliant. Never mind the copy (littered with phrases that cling), tasteful font (no Old English to be found), and tidy layout. It whimsically calls upon the virtues of chivalry. No ad that includes a deadly, aim-to-kill lance can escape at least a mention of phallic symbolism, and the defender-of-righteousness-and-truth model works on all levels of the brain.
The second ad is a not quite subtle indictment of a decade most Americans would like to forget.
The find would be the “color catalog.”
I hate to admit that I can even remember people dressing like the pimp in the second picture. He’d a made a great clown back then.
Nowadays you just can’t find plate armor with a 3/2 roll.
“Unobtrusive lapels” in 70s!
Honor and glory to Langrock.
This mean that at time Langrock was in controversy with Brooks Brothers an J Press because these firms had updated the Ivy look with more generous lapels that in 50s and 60s?
But maybe the key for survive to 70s without give up the tradition was back to Ivy proportions of 30s 40s.
I think Ivy lost the battle but eventually won the war against 70’s over-the-top fashions. I hate wide lapels and bell bottomed trousers with a passion. Those were ubiquitous when I was a child in the 70’s. Thankfully these styles are not around anymore and haven’t made a comeback since their shameful 70’s heyday. I hope they will forever be just a reminder of the lost decade’s bad taste.
As a teenager in the early 80’s I rebelled against this style and started wearing slim trousers, 3 button jackets with narrow lapels and narrow ties. That look was “new wave” to me back then. I didn’t know it had its roots in the Ivy look.
Ivy basic staples have survived in one way or another since their early 80’s comeback, even through the oversized 90’s, to this day.
The second ad is preaching to choir. I imagine that many of their customers (and other men) felt the same way. The ad is a call to arms and the arms in this case are Langrock’s wares. I am not saying that this was the best strategy.
On a different note, perhaps, Mr. Frank was well aware that not changing with the times would be the end of Langrock and he was okay with that. I don’t see any reason to criticize him if that was the case. I guess I will find out more from C. Sharp’s upcoming post.
Even if he did not anticipate the clothing of Langrock I don’t think Mr. Hilton gained any ground by condemning him (and O’Connell’s) for his clothing ideology.I prefer to see someone build something of their own instead of people tearing down what other have built.
I saw the ad some time ago, and, upon a first reading, the opening phrase intrigued.
“If you’re headed up in the world of business or society, how you dress is very important.”
The opening assertion clarifies the intended audience. Is Langrock the one place to shop for the wonkish engineering major who can get away with all forms of slobbery? No. How about the older alum who’s already made his way in the world and returns to retail only for the occasional black-and-orange accessory? Likely not. That gent is finished with “heading up.” How about the trust fund brat from Newport who doesn’t have to do much of anything (except lunch with the guy who manages his family’s investments)? Again, not so much.
The pitch is aimed at the rising junior or senior or perhaps recent graduate who’s “headed up” in business and/or society. The young fellow who’s intent upon succeeding.
I agree with OCBD. I thought Mr. Frank retired happily to Florida to enjoy the fruits of his lahors, voluntarily choosing to not sell to anyone. No “going out of business sale” or any such grief-stricken fanfare. And I think there’s an article somewhere that confirms that the manager of the U Store approached him, not vice versa.
Question: So who is keeping the faith today? Brooks and J Press seem tarnished, don’t they? Are O’Connell’s, the Andover Shop, and Ben Silver the only ones?
I think S.E. has it right. They’re just advertisements, meant to get your attention. (And they are still doing that today, apparently!) The cartoon leading the second ad was great–even an eighty-year-old woman reading the magazine or newspaper that ad appeared in was going to look at it.
I wouldn’t spend a lot of time analyzing them for hidden meanings.
“Speaking of reactionary, in our next post Chris Sharp offers a biography of Langrock owner Alan Frank, who refused any concession to changing times and eventually found himself out of business. — CC”
This is exactly why I never harp on Brooks Brothers for offering whatever the Hell they want. If it keeps them in business and growing, so be it. They still offer a wide selection of traditional clothes. I don’t care if they have a few racks or 80% of trendy items. Just as long as I can find some rep ties, a navy blazer, flannels, and cordovan loafers.
@EMJ I thoroughly agree.
We see similar treatment in the realm of music (and, no doubt, other cases as well). The “real” bands who refuse to “sell out” are held to a higher esteem because their lack of money somehow makes them higher quality musicians. The “sellouts” are the ones who keep popping up and the reason is precisely because they are making money where the other guys aren’t. Money makes the world go round and for better or worse, if you don’t have it, you won’t be around for very long (as further evidenced by so many Ivy Style clothiers going the way of the dodo).
“Once-great” Ivy staples like BB and J Press are around because they are catering to the masses. Brooks Brothers has been around for two hundred years because it didn’t linger on tradition when the rest of the nation moved on. What if they had refused to update for the times 150 years ago? The #menswear bloggers of the 19th century would curse the new-fangled “high fashion” items and reminisce of the good old days when one could get good quality frock coats and breeches without having to dig through piles of those hideous “trousers” and Brooks Brothers would today be little more than a seldom-recalled example of archaic retail Darwinism.
Let me disambiguate myself by saying I much prefer the style of the days when Ivy League was the prevalent fashion, and also that there is no respectable excuse for BB’s current trend of outsourcing so much of its clothing, cost-effective as it may be. I simply mean to keep heads cool in realizing that it’s not always easy to please the minorities (which, in this case, we are).
I think the part of the problem is that we are talking about two very different business models,
One model is to water down the product enough to make it palatable to the masses (think Brooks Brothers) where as the other is to cater to a very specific niche (think O’Connell’s).
I have seen very few companies do both of these things well. Niche companies do not scale well and often alienate their core consumers when they attempt to grow. Large companies on the other hand cannot (or will not) spend the resources to focus on niche consumers because it does not make fiscal sense.
I think that the problem with 70s fashion was that it was for the most a (wrong) reaction to excessive minimalism of mainstream 60s fashion (i not speak only of Ivy).
Years of inconsistents lapels,tiny black or navy solid ties,restricted palette led to this reaction.
The solution would have to be back to the classic..and for some year was partially so (you have never see the Walter Matthau’s wardrobe in the movie “a new leaf (1971)? http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s3814929.htm ).
Unfortunately lapels become more and more larges (and so the ties),and patterns and colors more and more cheap,tasteless,vulgars (and those hairs and facial hairs…oh my good Lord)!!
Today i think can happen a similiar thing: from the sixtiesque ultra-skinny silhouette to an seventiesque ultra broad silhouette.
The new pimp era.
@ Oxford Cloth Button Down; I think you mean ‘financial’ rather than ‘fiscal’ but otherwise your analysis is acute. On a purely personal level, though, I was 13 in 1970 and thoroughly enjoyed the following decade. I readily admit that the clothes were mostly terrible, at least in the early 1970s, though I have a sneaking nostalgic fondness for loon pants, but it was a golden era for American cinema and for American and British rock and pop music and by 1980 the drugstore truck driving man was President and the grocer’s daughter was Prime Minister, so not all bad then…
A couple of clarifications to the discussion.
I wouldn’t say that Brooks and Press are “catering to the masses.” In the case of Press, though owned by a corporation this is a pretty small company catering to a niche, offering clothes that most would consider stodgy. Obviously I’m not talking about York Street here.
Brooks was also a specialty retailer as well, originally quite rarified. Remember its first two locations outside NY were Palm Beach and Newport. Today it is a very big company (some would say too big, hence all the mediocrity), and certainly considers itself at least partly a luxury brand. It offers $1,000 engined turned/alligator belts, and the number of people on earth willing to pay that, though growing, is still pretty tiny.
Also, save for a few items, I don’t think Brooks is offering a watered-down Ivy League Look now in 2014. Largely it is offering its own thing, or rather what everyone else is offering: men’s clothing. Much of what’s in the catalog today has no connection to the Ivy League Look, even as a neo-prep version.
Christian, I would say that Brooks was once a niche company that has transitioned from serving a niche to serving the masses. They still do carry some of these specialty items, but it is not their focus.
I agree that Press is not catering to the masses.
“Just as long as I can find some rep ties, a navy blazer, flannels, and cordovan loafers.”
I suppose then it depends on how you want to define “the masses.”
Technically, I suppose “the masses” these days don’t care one way or the other what they wear. Almost nobody wears a jacket and tie if they don’t have to, and those that do are more likely to shop for the easiest and cheapest suit they can get their hands on rather than pay for quality they don’t care about at a place like Brooks Brothers which, even if you discredit its current lineup (which I don’t) is better quality than most all of the JAB offerings.
Maybe a more accurate way to describe what I meant is to say BB is *trying* to cater to “the masses,” or at least to the masses of #menswear adherents, and indeed they have succeeded in many ways. Flip through a modern men’s fashion magazine and Thom Browne’s Black Fleece as well as Red Fleece are mentioned with as much frequency as any other label (and certainly more often than plain ol’ Brooks Brothers). Here, we don’t generally like modern fashion trends but plenty of younger, more rakish, FEC types will gladly ride the wave through thick and thin (lapels) just as they have for the past several decades.
I wonder wear BB generates most of its revenue. My guess is upper middle-class folks buying loose-fit chinos and non-iron shirts in bulk. Does anyone know?
I am flexible on the term “masses.” How about “mainstream?”
I recall going into a men’s store (the store was independently owned by two brothers, but carried Richman Brothers stuff) in 1969, and asking about a olive glen plaid DB suit they had in the window. The owner went into a tirade about the suit being some mod monstrosity, and talked me out of it. I really liked the DB look, but I ended up buying a three piece navy SB chalk stripe instead.
The suit had HUGE lapels, flare bottom pants with jeans type pockets, and 3″ belt loops. Still highly conservative for the era. The price was $110.
I wore that suit to death. I had the lapels and flares altered in the 1980’s to look more conservative. I wore the suit into the 1990’s, when it became too tattered for wear. Co-workers were commenting on the shiny elbows and baggy knees, when I released that suit from duty. I gave the suit to charity, along with a couple more less worn suits, bought in the same store.
The original Richman suits were very decent quality. Things went downhill when the company was bought out by Woolworths, or was it Thom McAnn.
“So who is keeping the faith today?”
Well London, of course, in the unceasing shape of one John Simons of Chiltern Street.
I am aware that there is history between London and this blog (of no interest to me), however I think that true “Ivy Style” today is split between Japan and England. America now does something else. “Preppy” took over in the U.S.A. A very insubstantial substitute for the Ivy League style.
O’Connell’s is the best that the US currently has from an Ivy point of view.
Those of us who were there and remember mourn Brooks and Press and all the rest.
But they have gone.
I hope that they return.
Join me in that hope?
Since there are only a couple of stores in the country (okay, universe) that offer a consistently healthy stock of undarted sack jackets (and the ones that do don’t offer the jackets or accessories in classic Ivy dimensions), it’s safe to conclude that most of the men who have stubbornly stuck with the look are thrifting or going MTM. Among the older gentlemen I know who demand “Old Brooks” or “J. Squeeze,” the refusal to “update” entails all sorts of curmudgeony reasoning. Among the younger who intentionally seek it out (and it demands effort), something resembling nostalgia is at work, I’d suppose. “Retro” and “vintage” don’t quite suffice. Who can explain an affection for what once was but isn’t anymore? Who said it’s not as good as it was but is better than it will be?
How many jackets does one need?
One navy blazer.
One herringbone tweed.
One tweed in a different pattern: Donegal or Houndstooth.
Go for made-to-measure.
If you can’t afford MTM, maybe you should be spending your time worrying about more important things.
@S.E. your comment on the 18th at 9:38 made me go back and reexamine an article. Thanks for the help.
Wow, nice posting. Grew up in Princeton in 60’s 70’s when there were 1/5 the people 4x the farms and the entire Pton experience was slower, kinder, enormously more liveable. Langrocks was indeed the center of Pton male universe on a Saturday in the fall. You would see everyone come through there even if just to connect w friends. Princeton retail universe was Langrocks, the Country Mouse, and the U-store. And everything else. Always felt the first two businesses would have made perfect franchises; Polo ripped off Langrocks and Crabtree & Evelyn ripped off The Country Mouse. As Orson Wells said when asked if he ever revisited old favorite places, “No, because things only get worse.” Have to agree, look at Princeton.
What are you talking about? There’s now a Brooks Brothers outlet and a dedicated Sperry store in Princeton so..uh..oh. I see what you mean.